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Nigeria during the Abacha Years (1993-1998)

‘Kunle Amuwo
Daniel C. Bach
Yann Lebeau

Civil Rights and Pro-democracy Groups in and outside Nigeria

Abdul Raufu Mustapha

Texte intégral

The Emergence of Human Rights Groups in Nigeria

1Prior to the early 1980s., the concept of human rights in Nigeria was almost the exclusive preserve of lawyers, academics, constitutional experts and members of the judiciary. Even ethnic minorities who were not satisfied with their lot in the sociopolitical scheme of things tended to express their complaints in terms of ‘marginalization’. Itwas in the early 1980s that the notion of ‘human rights’ gained currency in Nigeria, as the basic right of the individual citizen to seek redress under the laws of the constitution. This paper traces the course of this development, and discusses its significance for the process of democratization in Nigeria. The paper is partly documentary, partly analytical and certainly political, to the extent that the issues involved continue to be relevant to the current problems of militarism and democratization in the country. The political opinions expressed, however, are not put forward to justify partisan or sectional views, but are basically a product of the author’s reflections, both as a citizen and an academic.

Military Rule and Repression of Human Rights. Buhari and Idiagbon

2The economic, political and moral collapse of the Second Republic (1979-1983) set the stage for the emergence of the concept of human rights in Nigerian politics. Though the Shagari regime increasingly resorted to repressive methods to contain the situation, it was not until the coming to power of the Buhari/Idiagbon military junta (1983-1985) that repression became a major plank in the crisis management strategy of the State. Draconian decrees, arbitrary arrests, detention for long periods without trial, the muzzling of the press, and the dismantling of organizations resisting the junta’s agenda became the order of the day. The selective, but harsh, targeting of politicians, the banning of major professional and student organizations, the imprisonment of journalists and the effective muzzling of the press created a climate of fear and apprehension in the country. To worsen matters, the junta refused to indicate when it was going to hand over to a civilian government.


3It was this extremely oppressive climate that generated popular support for the Babangida regime when it overthrew the Buhari/Idiagbon junta in a palace coup in 1985. Cashing in on the popular mood, Babangida proclaimed the ‘human rights posture’ of his regime, meaning that, unlike his dreaded predecessors, he was going to respect the fundamental human rights of Nigerian citizens. Thus, Nigeria found itself in 1985, with its first self-conscious ‘human rights regime’, albeit a military one.

4Some particularly repressive decrees were abrogated while others were amended. Jailed journalists were set free, some professional and the student unions were unbanned. A good number of detained politicians were also set free. Major debates were initiated on the economy and the political future of the country, ostensibly to encourage popular participation in these crucial areas of national life. Government officials and acolytes of the junta continually underscored and lauded the human rights ‘posture’ of the junta. Nigeria, now had its first populist military dictatorship.

5With time, however, the populist and human rights credentials of the regime began to lose their shine. Two parallel but intertwined processes were to expose the human rights pretensions of the junta. At the economic level, popular opinion was that the so-called ‘conditionalities’ of the IMF, long opposed by both the Shagari administration and the Buhari/Idiagbon junta, should be rejected. But while paying lip-service to the popular will, Babangida proceeded to impose an IMF-inspired Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) on the country. Extremely intolerable economic conditions were visited on large sections of the populace, particularly the workers, the youth and the middle class. To make matters worse, Babangida encouraged and tolerated a climate of pervasive corruption which not only undermined the alleged economic rationality of SAP, but also undermined the confidence of the people in the management of the economic crisis.

6At the political level, Babangida gradually resorted to the same repressive mechanisms used by the previous junta to eliminate opposition to its economic and social policies. He started by rejecting major aspects of popular opinion as expressed through the Political Bureau set up by his junta to chart the political future of the country. He then proceeded on a wanton and reckless process of political engineering whose alleged objectives were to encourage democratization ‘as a learning process’, evolve a class of ‘newbreed’ politicians devoid of the ‘weaknesses’ of the previous political class, and enthrone a democratic system which could withstand future challenges. His junta, as he was wont to proclaim, would be the last military regime in Nigeria’s political history. The unprecedented scale of political shenanigans, the constant shifting of goal-posts, the endless banning, unbanning and banning again of various groups and individuals from political contestation, and the continuous shifting of the handing-over date, made the populace realize that Babangida’s transition programme was a smoke-screen for his own political ambitions.

7The economic disappointment of the populace was, therefore, matched by political alienation. In the meantime, Babangida, quite contrary to the erstwhile collegiate nature of past military juntas in the country, began to gradually concentrate all the powers of government into his own hands. State policy, no matter how serious, became increasingly determined by the whims and caprices of the dictator, his wife and a tiny clique of ‘palace favourites’. It is often said, that Babangida’s regime was imperial, with all real powers residing, first in a bloated Office of the President, and ultimately in the dictator himself.

8It soon became commonplace to assert that Babangida nursed a ‘hidden agenda’ to perpetuate himself in office. Individuals and social groups and institutions which had hitherto constituted the moral foundations of the Nigerian polity were bought off and corrupted in the politics of co-option. Opposing individuals were targeted for economic strangulation, while social groups like students, intellectuals, professionals and the press became targets of repression. When the journalist Dele Giwa was killed by a mysterious parcel bomb shortly after having a brush with Babangida’s state security apparatus, many put it down to state terrorism.

9The anxiety generated by economic deprivation and the decay of all social and economic institutions and infrastructure was intensified by the apparent immunity of petty and high state officials even when they broke the law. Illegal arrests, sometimes for petty personal reasons, extra-judicial killings, and the submission of the official procedures of the state to personal whims became the order of the day. The concentration of power and the personalization of state institutions ensured that only those with the ‘right connections’ could have any hope for economic well-being and selective justice. While the majority struggled for ‘connections’ or suffered the consequences of not being ‘well-connected,’ a few grovelled at the feet of Babangida and his wife. Petro-naira, patronage and repression became the pillars of Babangida’s kleptocracy.

10Despair, despondency and a feeling of powerlessness have since become pronounced aspects of Nigerian national life. Women, the youth, the working class and the middle class have been the worst hit. While many turned to religious, ethnic and communal networks for support, many more drifted into all manners of anti-social behaviour antithetical to extant moral codes in the country. The dictatorship encouraged the rising tide of regional, religious and ethnic intolerance to reinforce a policy of ‘divide and rule’. Babangida, therefore, superintended a Kingdom of Chaos whose sole objective was to perpetuate him in office, whilst making it difficult, if not impossible, for any organized challenge to his autocracy to emerge.

11The above situation has resulted in one of the ironies of recent Nigerian political history: it was under our first self-conscious ‘human rights regime’ that human rights groups proliferated in the country to challenge its economic and political agenda. A few years into Babangida’s autocracy, human rights not only became a major concept in the Nigerian political life but also assumed definite organizational and social characteristics. At the same time, many organizations (trade unions, professional bodies, community organizations, ethnic minority movements and church organizations) which had previously existed for different reasons began to gravitate towards a human rights agenda. The typology and list of human rights groups in Nigeria are presented in the appendix at the end of this paper.

The Major Groups

12Within the large array of pro-democracy/human rights groups, some have stood out as the most important organizations in the struggle against militarism in Nigeria. This section will give a brief outline of the personalities, characteristics and programmes of ten major groups and alliances.

The Civil Liberties Organization (CLO)

13The Civil Liberties Organization is possibly the most successful human rights organization in Nigeria. It is active in the fields of civil rights advocacy, legal aid, penal reform, human rights education, human rights monitoring and documentation, legal and police reforms, environmental rights and political activism. The CLO has campaigned against the denial and erosion of personal liberties and against oppressive military legislation, and has mobilized against the extension of military rule. It has also been a watchdog of the Babangida and Abacha transition projects, pointing out inconsistencies, and exposing the shenanigans of the politicians. It has tirelessly campaigned against ‘executive recklessness’ through the courts, and has held many conferences to draw attention to particular problems. It has also sought to improve human rights awareness within the police force through collaborative conferences and publications. Its legal aid project has reached out to over 5000 Nigerians in need, and it has also sought to sensitize the broader legal profession to be alive to its responsibility as the watch-dog of the rights of the common citizen.

14Its penal reform programme has led to two spectacular and influential publications which exposed the sordid and intolerable conditions in Nigerian prisons. So successful was its well-researched book, Behind the Wall, that the government was forced, in August 1991, to release a fake ‘documentary’ on national television, trying to show that conditions were not as bad as described in the book. In addition, the government went on to organize a national seminar on prison reform and a national committee on prison reform. There are signs of slight improvements in prison conditions as a result. Many prisoners have also benefited from the legal aid project, and the CLO has also campaigned for the respect of the prisoners’ right to vote during elections. The penal reform project has also published Prisoners in the Shadows: A report on women and children in five Nigerian prisons.

15In the field of human rights monitoring and documentation, the CLO has constantly intervened in human rights and pro-democracy issues through the press, and through its own journal. It publishes an annual report on the human rights situation in Nigeria, and special monographs addressing particular instances of human rights abuse. It has also published general volumes such as: Human Rights in Retreat: A report on the human rights violations of the military regime of General Ibrahim Babangida. It is a major source of detailed information on human rights abuses for the international community.

16In pursuit of legal and police reforms, it has sought to engage the police in dialogue, and has also produced a comprehensive list of repressive legislation foisted on the country by the military. At a more general level, it has published Justice Denied: The area courts system in the northern states of Nigeria, drawing attention to serious lapses as a result of the discrepancies between what ‘ought’ to be and what ‘is’.

17The CLO’s environmental rights agenda has found a common cause with the ethnic minorities of the Niger Delta, providing legal advice and representation, initiating court action to enforce legislation on environmental impact assessment against particular projects, and channelling information to the international community.

18Arguing that the struggle for human rights is inextricably linked to the question of democracy, the CLO has been a major participant in, and a major source of funding for, first the Campaign for Democracy (CD), and later, the Democratic Alternative (DA). It has given these organizations access to secretarial and office facilities, and many of its paid officials are prominent leaders of DA. Its regional and state offices are also used by other organizations for meetings and secretarial support.

19Organizationally, the CLO has a strong presence in Lagos, but has an impressive membership and regional offices across the country. It has at least five well staffed and functioning national and regional secretariats across the country and state branches in 17 states. Its membership is made up of civil libertarian lawyers, who control the leadership, the radical middle class and political youth activists who operate most of the outreach programmes. Sometimes, there appears to be a strain between the libertarian and radical trends. The CLO receives financial contributions from the Nigerian public, but most of its funding is from the US, Sweden, UK, Austria and Germany. Its current leader is Ms. Ayo Obe, a human rights activist and lawyer.

The Committee for the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR)

20The CDHR was formed in 1989 to consolidate structures used both in the campaign to free Beko Ransome-Kuti from detention in 1985 and in the ‘Free Aborishade’ Campaign of 1988. Through the struggle to free the two individuals, it was soon realized that there was a permanent need for an organization to defend and promote human rights, and document human rights issues. It publishes an annual report on human rights abuses in the country, and the journal, Victims. Compared to the CLO, it is an activists’ organization, the membership being made up of working class elements, students, unemployed youth, ex-students leader, and radical middle class lawyers, academics and professionals. Its motto is Do Not Mourn, Mobilize. It has campaigned against corruption, and the squandermania of the Babangida regime, such as the billions spent on ECOMOG and the showcase heads of state meetings by the OAU and ECOWAS. It has also concentrated particular attention on the social pains inflicted by SAP. It has exposed prison conditions, and championed the cause of the 300,000 people who were forced into the streets when the Maroko slums were cleared. It sought to popularize the case of the Kataf minority ethnic group in the Zangon Kataf clashes. It mobilized students and the youth to oppose Babangida’s transition programme, claiming that it was a grand deception aimed at perpetuating the dictator in power.

21The CDHR tends to concentrate on economic, social and cultural rights, without sacrificing the struggle for civil rights. The CDHR has branches in 9 states, but the main focus of their operations is in their headquarters in Lagos. Its presence in the North, is limited to Kano, Kaduna and Plateau states. It is particularly active on university campuses, especially in the South. Virtually all its funding seems to come from within Nigeria, though the current situation is not clear. Its leader is the medical doctor and political activist, Beko Ransome-Kuti.

The Constitutional Rights Project (CRP)

22The CRP was formed in 1990 by Clement Nwankwo, one of the founders of CLO. The parting of ways was occasioned by what a CLO official described as disagreements over ‘constitutional’ matters. The African Guardian, however, suggests that the problem arose over the disbursement of a $25,000 foreign grant. It has the same efficient, legal libertarian leadership as the CLO, but without its radical activist base. It is organizationally limited to Lagos, and engages only in limited political activism. It has, however, effectively intervened in the courts and the media to challenge particular government decisions, legislation, or to defend the rights of particular individuals. Its well researched publications include, Guide to Human Rights Litigation in Nigeria; Human Rights Practices in the Nigerian Police; The Church, and Human Rights; and the Constitutional Rights Journal. It organizes numerous conferences, during which it always seeks to reflect a cross-section of the opinions in the country. It has a strong connection with German NGOs, particularly those associated with the Christian Democratic Party.

The Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP)

23MOSOP is a reflection of the fundamental changes that have taken place in Nigeria in the last one and a half decades with respect to inter-ethnic relations, particularly between the majority and minority ethnic groups. The creation of states in 1967 was supposed to allay the fears of the minorities, but the relief was short-lived. Old minorities became new majorities in the new states, giving rise to new forces of marginalization and protest. At the same time, the concentration of political and economic power at the centre, the monopolization of economic resources by powerful individuals and groups, and the intensified struggle over land and water rights soon led to an explosive situation in many areas inhabited by ethnic minorities. In the Middle Belt, for instance, communal clashes between minority groups raged for most of the late 1980s and early 1990s. In the same area, conflict between the Hausa/Fulani and the ethnic minorities intensified. A similar process was going on in the Niger Delta, only that in this instance, the situation was aggravated by environmental pollution.

24Hitherto peaceful ethnic unions were becoming more assertive, and that was the context in which the Ogoni Central Union, much like any other ethnic ‘development’ association in Nigeria, became radicalized, initiated the formation of MOSOP as a mass movement, and adopted the Ogoni Bill of Rights in 1990. This was a qualitative transformation, as such ‘development’ unions were usually elite organizations.

25The Ogoni Bill of Rights lamented the usurpation of the political rights of the people by successive Nigerian regimes, decried the minuscule amenities provided for the Ogoni in return for billions of dollars taken away from their territory in oil resources, and called attention to environmental pollution caused by oil companies, particularly, Shell. They demanded political autonomy, meaning:

  1. political control of Ogoni affairs by Ogoni people
  2. the right to the control and use of a fair proportion of Ogoni economic resources for Ogoni development
  3. adequate and direct representation, as a right, in all Nigerian national institutions
  4. the use and development of Ogoni languages in Ogoni territory
  5. the full development of Ogoni culture
  6. the right to religious freedom
  7. the right to protect the Ogoni environment and ecology from further degradation

26When Babangida did not respond to the Bill of Rights despatched to him, MOSOP, in 1991, drafted the Addendum to the Ogoni Bill of Rights. The major issues raised in the document were the need to internationalize the Ogoni struggle, the demand for twenty billion US dollars as restitution for oil resources taken from Ogoni land, and the retention of at least 50 per cent of the oil revenue from the territory for Ogoni development. The Bill of Rights was endorsed by Ogoni chiefs and a representative cross-section of the Ogoni elite.

27At subsequent mass meetings towards the end of 1992, the Ogoni adopted a ‘Demand Notice’ which was addressed to the three major oil companies in the area. The major demands were that the companies should pay four billion US dollars for damage to the environment and six billion dollars in unpaid rents and royalties. Should the companies fail to comply within 30 days, it would be assumed that they had decided to quit the land. MOSOP had thereby joined issues with the state and with powerful multinational companies.

28Three issues were to lead to serious divisions within the united platform of MOSOP. Prior to the emergence of these issues, chiefs were already coming under pressure from the state government, causing a number of them to vacillate. The first divisive issue was the demand for direct, non-violent mass action by the radical wing of the MOSOP leadership led by Saro-Wiwa. This culminated in the Ogoni Day demonstrations of 4th January 1993, when an estimated 300,000 of the Ogoni population of 500,000 took to the streets in a peaceful demonstration to press home their demands. The more cautious wing of the MOSOP leadership, led by Garrick Leton, did not seem to be comfortable with this line of mass agitation.

29The second divisive issue, related to the first, was whether MOSOP should be seen as an umbrella organization of other Ogoni organizations, such as the women’s organization and the National Youth Council of the Ogoni People (NYCOP), or should simply be composed of individuals. The National Youth Council of the Ogoni People was very vocal and radical, and some elements within it did not care much about the values of non-v iolent struggle. Its increased status in the MOSOP structure was, therefore, resented by the conservative wing of the leadership.

30What finally led to a parting of ways within the MOSOP leadership was the issue of the June 12th 1993 election. The Saro-Wiwa faction of the leadership argued that the Ogoni should boycott the elections as neither party platform held out any hope for addressing Ogoni problems. The conservative faction, many of whose members aspired to political influence if not office, argued for participation. In the end, the election was boycotted, the leadership split, with Saro-Wiwa taking over the Presidency of MOSOP from Leton. Rancour and acrimony set in. The rest, as the saying goes, is now history.

31MOSOP continues to be active in the Ogoni areas, organizing a peaceful demonstration every Ogoni Day, 4 January 1996. Many members have fled into exile due to repression, while some others have gone underground. The external wing, MOSOP-UK continues to provide a commentary on the goings-on in Ogoni land.

The Movement for National Reformation (MNR)

32The MNR was formed in December 1992 with Chief Anthony F.nahoro as chairman, Mazi Mokwugo Okoye as vice-chairman and Dr Olu Onagoruwa as interim secretary. Its major objectives are: (a) a reorganization of the country on truly federal lines; (b) a review of the revenue allocation formula to ensure justice and fairness; (c) to work for a secular, democratic, multi-party parliamentary system; (d) zoning of political offices to ensure meaningful participation by all ethnic groups; and (e) to work for a conference of all nationalities, professional bodies and patriotic groups to produce a new constitution.

33It called for the restructuring of Nigeria into eight federations which will constitute the union of Nigeria. Apart from these constitutional reforms, the MNR called for the upholding of the June 12 verdict. Ken Saro-Wiwa was a prominent member of the MNR. Olu Onagoruwa became the justice minister under Abacha, ostensibly with the hope of getting the national conference underway. He was later to fall out with both Abacha and the MNR. The significant thing about the MNR is the consistent position and pronouncements of its leader, Enahoro, who released a one-year alternative transition agenda, challenging Abacha to put that proposal and the regime’s 3-year programme to a referendum. Shortly after, state security agents went after Enahoro and he fled into exile.

The National Conscience Party (NCP)

34The NCP was formed by Gani Fawehinmi in defiance of the military ban on party activities; he was arrested and detained. It is closely allied to the GFSA It pursues a policy of broad agitation for human rights, validation of the June 12th mandate, and the termination of military rule. The NCP is significant in one important respect; it reflects a disenchantment not just with military rule, but also with the banalities and unprincipled vacillations of the alternative civilian political class. Like the DA the NCP therefore goes beyond human rights agitation, and seeks to constitute itself into an alternative political force. It represents an attempt to bring organs of civil society into the political sphere. Though it has a published list of members nationwide, made up largely of admirers of the radical lawyer, Gani Fawehinmi, it is very much tied up with that single personality, and is largely active in Lagos and the southwest, where the GFSA has branch offices in 6 states. It is funded through donations from members and fund-raising activities like concerts, but much of the operational costs are being met by Gani Fawehinmi, particularly through his law chambers. Its stated objective for going into the political terrain is to validate the June 12 election results. It has refused to seek official recognition through the electoral agency, NECON, claiming that the rules for party formation are oppressive, and maintaining that, in any case, it is for the electorate and not a government agency to decide which parties survive and which ones do not.

The Campaign for Democracy (CD)

35The CD was formed in 1991 in response to a number of developments. The first occurred early in 1990, when a group of seasoned former high-ranking bureaucrats led by Asiodu, sought to identify themselves with the calls for a national conference which was just gathering momentum. Being close to Babangida, their motives were suspect. It was rumoured that their aim was to promote the adoption of the French parliamentary model, a development which would confirm Babangida in office as president, with an elected prime minister and parliament serving under the presidency. This suspicion led a group of radical activists and politicians, led by Aka-Bashorun, to challenge the Asiodu group. Subsequently, both groups sought to cooperate in getting the conference going, each for its own purpose. The Aka-Bashorun group organized itself as the National Consultative Forum, NCF, and mobilized nationwide for the conference on that platform.

36The second development that influenced the founding of CD was the Orkar coup attempt of April 1990. This coup attempt had three consequences. It threw into bold relief the ‘national question’ in Nigeria. This was no longer just a concept used by radicals and socialists, it became a public issue over which contradictory and conflicting positions were taken, often in the daily newspapers. It also provided a justification for the calls for a national conference to address, amongst other things, the said ‘national question’. Finally, the coup attempt frightened off the Asiodu group who came to the realization that, given the circumstances, the proposed conference would necessarily be dominated by the agenda of the Aka-Bashorun group.

37The third factor that influenced the formation of CD was the failed attempt to hold the national conference in September 1990, under the aegis of the NCF. Despite impressive interest shown in the conference by a cross-section of politicians and activists across the country, the venue was sealed off by the police and dire threats were issued to organizers and attenders alike over national television. The NCF, however, decided to keep the momentum going by seeking for ways to channel the interests expressed in the conference. The CD was the result.

38The last factor responsible for the emergence of the CD was the growing realization in the country that Babangida was up to some mischief, and his transition programme, which he had, by that time, altered about 40 times, was less than honest. Coupled with this was the view that the two official political parties under Babangida were ‘government parastatals’ incapable of truly reflecting the political aspirations of the people for the termination of military rule.

39In November 1991, the NCF and 6 other pro-democracy and women’s organizations and trade unions met in Jos and formed the CD as a coalition of major human rights organizations in alliance with other democratic forces, concerned persons and the popular masses. At the height of its influence, the CD had about 44 affiliates. Within the context of Babangida’s transition programme, the CD dedicated itself to the following aims: to

  1. strive to return the country to civil rule and culture by terminating military rule for all time
  2. subject the army and the police to civil authority and humanize them to serve the people
  3. respect and observe fundamental human rights as enshrined in the Nigerian Constitution
  4. work towards decongestion of police cells and prisons and make them fit for human habitation
  5. repeal all draconian decrees and enthrone the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary
  6. empower the people to take their destiny in their own hands and guarantee them platforms to debate the problems confronting the nation
  7. ensure that the government pursues humane programmes and policies
  8. guarantee the basic needs of the Nigerian people such as education, shelter, clothing, health care and jobs
  9. promote democracy by guaranteeing multi-party democracy and independent candidacy
  10. ensure strict accountability in the governance of the country. Programmes adopted to this end include:
    • Campaign for a National Conference to review major national issues, e.g., the national question; minority rights; federalism; the press; revenue allocation; the economy; religion; party politics; fundamental rights, rule of law, etc.
    • Re-awaken the consciousness of civil society
    • Promote debate and dialogue on the state of the nation from time to time
    • Ensure that military rule terminates not later than October 1, 1992
    • Collaborate with local and foreign organizations with similar aims and objectives

40The CD also set itself a three-point immediate agenda:

  1. To work for the convening, as soon as possible, of the sovereign national conference
  2. To popularize an agenda for the conference which shall include specific issues itemized in that document
  3. To work for the speedy actualization of genuine multiparty democracy that would enhance national cohesion, social development and democratic practices, and the conduct of free and fair multi-party elections on that basis

41At its inception, the CD had the following on its interim committee: Aka-Bashorun, Beko Ransome-Kuti, Olisa Agbakoba, Dr. Ferreira, M.G. Umar, Gloria Kilanko, Femi Falana, Mahmud Aminu, and Kabir Yusuf. Others were Yima Sen, Salihu Lukman, Tony Akika, Chima Ubani, Gani Fawehinmi and Festus Iyayi. This committee was subsequently replaced by an elected leadership made up of the following: Beko Ransome-Kuti, Chom Bagu, Chima Ubani, Salihu Lukman, Gloria Kilanko, Ishaya Daniel, John Gimbason, Ibrahim Waziri, Titus Mann, Dele Ojogbede, Festus Iyayi and the late Ken Saro-Wiwa.

42The CD was successful in popularizing the idea of the need for a sovereign national conference (the concept had been gradually transformed from national forum, through national conference, to sovereign national conference, SNC). Babangida found it necessary to devote many minutes of broadcast time to try to discredit it. He argued that those calling for the SNC were merely aping what was going on in Francophone Africa, that the SNC wanted to discuss the ‘national question’ with a view to breaking up the country, and that all issues to be discussed by such a conference had been settled by the amalgamation of Nigeria in 1914 and again in 1966 when the country rejected a unitarist constitution. The Political Bureau of 1986 gave all an opportunity to discuss the political future of the country, so there was no need for the SNC. In reply, the CD pointed out that it was Babangida’s cronies – the Asiodu group and some labour leaders – who initiated the idea of a national conference or national forum. Secondly, the agenda of the SNC went beyond the ‘national question1, and was aimed, not at breaking up the country, but at finding amicable, realistic and fair solutions to the country’s problems. Reference to the 1986 Political Bureau was dismissed as a joke, for the simple reason that Babangida himself subverted the popular will as contained in its report.

43Even Abacha had to pay lip-service to the idea of a national conference, though the one he ultimately held was a far cry from what he had promised upon seizing power. The CD and many other groups continue to insist on a sovereign national conference.

44The CD was also highly successful in monitoring, commenting on, and mobilizing against Babangida’s plots to perpetuate himself in office. It was Aka-Bashorun of the CD that coined the now popular concept of ‘hidden agenda’ in Babangida’s transition. It was also the CD that finally mobilized many other organizations and the ordinary people to engage in the truly heroic fight to force Babangida to ‘step aside’. In a situation in which the official political parties were hamstrung by military diktat, in which the political class was brazenly opportunistic and in which significant sections of the labour leadership and the press had been bought over, the pervading sense of anomie was palpable. Yet, the CD was able to inspire sufficient confidence in the people, and to spearhead the challenge to Babangida after the June 12 election. Caught between the independent press and the CD, Babangida’s bloated political ambition collapsed.

45In recent times, however, the organization has hit rough waters. First, in 1994, it split into two: the CD and the DA. Then in 1996, the CD split into two again, each faction claiming to be the authentic CD.

The Democratic Alternative (DA)

46The split within the CD which led to the establishment of DA was preceded by the trading of accusations at the national congress of the CD in February 1994. On the one side was Dr Ransome-Kuti, the national leader, supported by Femi Falana, Dr Fasheun and a host of youthful ex-student union leaders. On the other were most of the other members of the CD national executive, including the General Secretary Chima Ubani, Chom Bagu, Gloria Kilanko, Salihu Lukman and Titus Mann.

47The Ransome-Kuti faction accused the opposing faction of lack of financial accountability, ideological sectarianism, and allowing politics of intolerance within the organization. On its part, the Ubani faction accused the Ransome-Kuti faction of colluding with the military to overthrow the Shonekan-led Interim National Government, of authoritarian tendencies in the management of the affairs of the organization, of regionalist bias in favour of the southwest, and of lack of financial accountability.

48Two other factors which were not, however, elaborated upon were the personality factor, bordering on a personality cult in the Ransome-Kuti camp, and the divergent political perspectives of both camps. While the Ransome-Kuti camp wanted to remain as a pro-democracy group outside of formal party politics, the Ubani camp felt that the circle of repression and betrayal of pro-democracy groups by the military and the political class could only be broken if the umbrella organization transformed itself into a political movement, capable of direct contestation for power. Some of these issues are discussed later in this paper.

49In June 1994, the Ubani faction, joined by a number of other pro-democracy and special interest groups, constituted the DA as both a pro-democracy organization and a long-term political movement While the CD continues to argue that the June 12 election results must be validated, and has aligned itself with NADECO to achieve that end, DA places its emphasis not on the June 12 debacle as such, but on fighting military dictatorship, building its local structures and preparing the basis for political engagement in the future. Both groups, however, continued to call for the release of all political detainees, including Abiola and Kokori. The DA also continues to call for a SNC.

50The DA has a broad national spread, and has managed to win over many of the erstwhile affiliates of the CD. It is therefore rooted in the experiences of many of the activists from the affiliate organizations. Such organizations are CLO, WIN, NANS and a host of other community-based organizations. Despite a promising start, however, the DA is yet to fully carve out a political space for itself. This is not unconnected with the leadership of Aka-Bashorun, who was also occupied with other things, including the legal defence of Abiola. Another factor is the continued detention of Ubani, the DA secretary-general. DA recently held its national congress in Kaduna, and condemned the current Abacha transition as a charade.

The National Democratic Coalition of Nigeria (NADECO)

51NADECO was formed in May 1994, when it became clear that Abacha was going to renege on his promise of convening a constitutional conference ‘with sovereign powers’. Abacha’s national conference was only to make recommendations to the junta; one-third of its members were nominated and the rest were to be elected in poorly defined constituencies, without voters’ lists and without enabling legislation. It was the fear that Nigeria may have embarked on yet another political merry-go-round that galvanized the normally quiescent political class into action.

52NADECO is comprised of a wide array of old and established politicians, retired senior military officers, political organizations and some pro-democracy organizations. These groups include the MNR, the CD, the Peoples’ Consultative Forum (PCF), Afenifere, and the Committee for Unity and Understanding (CUU). The CUU was established to encourage a rapprochement amongst elite Igbo, Yoruba, and northern and southern minorities. Its membership included a host of retired military top-brass: Ebitu Ukiwe, David Jemibewon, Adeyinka Adebayo, and Theophilus Danjuma. Though some of its members continue to be active in NADECO, it is doubtful if the CUU still exists as a formal organization. The Afenifere is a pan-Yoruba politico-cultural organization. With its roots deep in the Action Group and Unity Party of Nigeria, it is the organization of the Yoruba elite, and was led by the respected octogenarian, Chief Ajasin. Other leaders of NADECO include Chief Enahoro, Rear Admiral Ndubuisi Kanu (rtd), Olu Falae, C.G. Onoh, Mohammed Arzika, Olu Lulu-Briggs, Bola Ige, Beko Ransome-Kuti, Yohanna Madaki, Cornelius Adebayo, Abraham Adesanya, Wahab Dosunmu, Uma Eleazu, Segun Osoba and Chukwuemeka Ezeife. These are all ex-govemors, ex-ministers, and former top bureaucrats. Loosely allied to NADECO was the MUP.

53NADECO declared that it stood for the restoration of democracy and true federalism. It asserted that the military dictatorships of Babangida and Abacha have had terrible consequences for the country. It described the Abacha political transition as insincere, and poorly managed. It, therefore, called for the validation of the June 12 election, the formation of a broad-based national government led by Abiola, and the convening of a sovereign national conference with the objective of achieving true federalism and political stability:

  1. The present arrangement by the military government for a so-called constitutional conference is only a ruse and a distraction, reminiscent, and even in line with the antics of the last military administration that brought the country to this impasse.
  2. The military government is not qualified by its antecedents, disposition and track record, and has no moral standing whatsoever to organize a proper sovereign national conference as desired by Nigerians. The military as an institution is essentially authoritarian and cannot, therefore, midwife true democracy. The often repeated claim by successive military administrations that civilians are to engage in a democratic learning process established and supervised by the military is as fraudulent as it is insulting.
  3. The military government should stop forthwith all preparations for, and call off, the ill-conceived constitutional conference that will be futile and prove a colossal waste of public funds especially at this time of untold economic hardship being experienced by the people of Nigeria, including a vast majority of armed forces personnel and the Police who are not in government.
  4. The national democratic coalition hereby demands the actualization of the June 12 mandate. For this purpose, NADECO further demands that the military government should call upon Bashorun M.K.O. Abiola to form a broad-based national government, composed of representatives of various ethnic and interest groups in the country.
  5. The primary mandate of the national government so composed shall be the immediate organization and convening of a sovereign national conference.
  6. The sovereign national conference shall, among other issues, undertake an appropriate restructuring of the Nigerian polity as a means of establishing true federalism and political stability in Nigeria. It shall also deal with power sharing, revenue generation and allocation, and all other matters vital to the future progress, peaceful co-existence, justice and harmony within the nation.
  7. The democratization process anywhere in the world is never helped by muzzling individuals or groups and preventing the exercise of the fundamental right of self-expression and association. This is more so in the case of Nigeria where the people desire, and even the military government pretends, to pursue democracy. NADECO therefore rejects the ban on discussion by groups as declared by General Sani Abacha.
  8. NADECO notes and is aware that many Nigerians have commenced participation in good faith in the election process to the conference. Therefore, NADECO hereby urges all Nigerians not to participate in the election or any of the processes leading to the so-called ‘constitutional conference’.

54The high-profile campaign of NADECO against Abacha’s transition programme, although its grassroots linkages are still weak, has seriously alarmed the regime, possibly because of a fear of the political class and the fact that the insistence on June 12 strikes a cord amongst the people, particularly in the southwest. There is the added factor of international embar-rassment because of the calibre of the opposition. Any opposition to the junta is termed as ‘NADECO’ or ‘Nadecoristic’. While stating its readiness to dialogue, the regime continues to treat any dissenting view as NADECO, and therefore ‘unpatriotic’. Various NADECO leaders became targets of repression with the view to silencing them. Many of them fled abroad, particularly to the UK and the US, where they constituted NADECO-Abroad and continued to canvass for maximum sanctions, including oil sanctions, against the Abacha regime, especially after the execution of Ken Saro-Wiwa. The leadership of NADECO-Abroad includes Chief Enahoro, Air Commodore Dan Suleiman (rtd), Ralph Uwechue, Gen. Akinrinade (rtd), Bolaji Akinyemi, John Oyegun, Ralph Obioha, Bola Tinubu, Peter Obadan, and Tokunboh Afikuyomi.

55There are a number of tiny differences in the outlook of both wings of NADECO. Firstly, within Nigeria, many NADECO members are to be found in the political association, People’s Progressive Party (PPP), which sought registration under the Abacha transition. This may be because of a pragmatic recognition that they cannot abandon their constituencies to supporters of the regime. NADECO-Abroad, on the other hand, calls for a total boycott of the Abacha transition process.

56Secondly, NADECO prepared a memo for submission to the Abacha junta’s National Reconciliation Committee (NARECOM). Significantly, they did not repeat the call for the validation of the June 12 election, but merely requested that the regime should show ‘appreciation’ for the election, release Abiola and dialogue with him as a way out of the political crisis. Unfortunately, NARECOM was prevented by the regime from holding the meeting with NADECO on the grounds that NADECO was an ‘illegal’ organization. NADECO-Abroad continues to insist on the full validation of the June 12 election.

57Thirdly, NADECO supports full sanctions on the junta, but does not articulate this position too much, possibly for fear of reprisals. NADECO-Abroad, on the other hand, campaigns strenuously for strict observance of existing bans on arms sales and deliveries, strict observance of travel restrictions on members of the junta and their collaborators, a freeze on foreign assets of members of the regime and their collaborators, and the imposition of comprehensive sporting and oil sanctions. On the whole, NADECO-Abroad has been more vocal in its criticism of the regime, and has joined other groups to establish the umbrella United Democratic Front of Nigeria (UDFN). It publishes a journal, Nigerian Liberation, and its leaders are constantly to be heard on Radio Democrat International Nigeria (later rechristened Radio Kudirat International), the underground anti-Abacha radio station beamed to Nigeria.

The United Democratic Front of Nigeria (UDFN)

58The United Democratic Front of Nigeria is an alliance of 13 groups based outside and within the country:

  1. National Democratic Coalition (NADECO)
  2. AGD
  3. African Democratic League (ADL)
  4. Campaign for Democracy (CD)
  5. Coalition for Democratic Awareness (CDA)
  6. Democratic Alliance (DA)
  7. National Alliance for Democracy (NAD)
  8. National Democratic Alliance Committee (NDAC)
  9. National Freedom Front (NFF)
  10. National Liberation Council of Nigeria (NALICON)
  11. New Nigeria Forum (NNF)
  12. Nigerian Democratic Movement (NDM)
  13. Nigerian Liberation Group (NLG)

59Its most important external members are NADECO-Abroad, NALICON, NDM and the NNF. The UDFN, like NADECO-Abroad, campaigned within the international community for sanctions against the Abacha regime. The UDFN, is however, more capable of organizing street-level protests in major Western countries, and may be the force behind the RDIN. The regime has blamed Wole Soyinka, the leader of NALICON and ADL, and a leading member of the UDFN, for some of the sabotage attacks in Nigeria in the recent past. This charge was denied by Wole Soyinka. The UDFN rejects Abacha’s transition agenda, and insists on the validation of the June 12 election.

60The UDFN recently held a meeting of 24 pro-democracy groups in an undisclosed West African country, and demanded access to all political prisoners in the country. It also renewed the call for a boycott of Abacha’s transition agenda.

Problems of Human Rights Groups

61A major problem of the human rights groups is that they are largely concentrated in the southwest, and that their membership is largely southern. This, however, is not a matter of policy or choice, but a reflection of the different levels of education and political socialization in various parts of the country.

62Even today, over three decades after independence, an examination of such indices as life expectancy, maternal and infant mortality, availability of basic social amenities, and attendance at all levels of the educational structure, show consistent differences across the country, with the southwest usually registering more favorable scores, and the northeast generating the least favourable scores; but the major divide is between the North and the South.

63Coupled with these disparities, historical differences predicated on such issues as culture, religion, political power and the Nigerian state, continue to widen the gap. It is, therefore, not surprising that pro-democracy activism is more pronounced in the south, particularly in the southwest. Nevertheless, most of the pro-democracy and civil rights groups have consistently sought to propagate a national message and vision. Sometimes, however, there have been unfortunate lapses, as in the constant lampooning of the ‘caliphate’ by some pro-democracy activists.

64A more serious problem is that the North/South divide in pro-democracy activism fits into an established pattern of ethno-regional divides, which makes the pro-democracy message suspect to some people in the North, and provides ready ammunition for reactionary, militarist forces in the North to castigate the pro-democracy movement as a southern agenda, supported by Western countries, who by implication, hate Nigeria and hate Islam. This makes it difficult for the many sympathizers of the pro-democracy message in the North to fully articulate their position.

65The second problem with the human rights groups, is that of factionalism. This is traceable to a number of factors. A primary cause is the absence of internal democracy in some human rights organizations. Leaders often behave as charismatic ‘chiefs’ whose motives and logic are so evidently obvious that there is no need to go through the rigours of following laid down procedure. Another cause is the struggle for financial spoils, particularly when foreign funding is involved. Some of the factionalism is, however, due to objective reasons, such as differences in perception, and difficulties in communication.

66A final problem with the human rights groups is how to transform them into truly popular institutions in the country with a measure of mass effectiveness, if not involvement. This involves a clear understanding of the political and institutional future of each organization. For example, are the organizations to be transformed into political movements or remain as pressure groups, given the cyclical nature of Nigerian political history, with corrupt civilian governments followed by equally corrupt and repressive military juntas? If they remain as pressure groups, who will be their target audience? How do they reach out to these audiences, so as to best reflect their aspirations and elicit broader participation? Will the human rights group constitute a distinct segment of civil society, or will they be part of a generalized process of reconstituting and empowering civil society in general?

67What will be their relationship to rural society, where organs of civil society are noted more for their absence? What of the problems of regular or secure funding, operational independence of major funders, and the institutionalization of internal checks and balances? So far, the human rights groups have rightly concentrated on combating the entrenchment of militarism; they must however prepare for the different challenges of a post-military (but not necessarily democratic) Nigeria.

68These problems notwithstanding, it is my view that most of the human rights and civil rights organizations have played a very positive role in checking the excesses of militarism in Nigeria.


69From all indications, it was a mistake to accept the simplistic argument that the Abacha regime would actually relinquish power in 1998. For one thing, because of the broader context in West Africa, characterized by the emergence of what has been termed ‘gun powered democracy’, through which incumbent military regimes manipulate political processes to reconstitute themselves as ‘elected democratic’ governments. Secondly, the conduct of the Abacha transition, with particular reference to the last non-party local government elections and party verification and registration left no doubt as to the logic and ultimate motives of the entire process. Significant sections of the political class have expressed similar doubts.

70It does seem that the Abacha transition was a process of guided democracy, with the emphasis on ‘guided’. What we were being guided towards remains a matter of serious concern.

71Thirdly, the human rights record of the regime was appalling. A number of recent political and non-political events can be used to substantiate this point, but there is no need to go into the gory details. Indeed, Abacha refined the old-style of repression by clearly identifiable state agencies, to a combination of that old style with the new ‘informal repression’ through which opponents of the regime regularly fell victim of hired assassins, communal clashes and unknown and mysterious arsonists.

72The obvious conclusion, therefore, is that there is a continuing need for vigilance on the part of the citizenry. The human and civil rights groups have a special role to play in this regard. They, however, face an increasingly daunting task in the face of increasing popular powerlessness and intensified formal and informal repression.


Typology and List of Human Rights Groups in Nigeria

73The first human rights organization, the Civil Liberties Organization (CLO) was formed on October 15, 1987 by two lawyers, Olisa Agbakoba and Clement Nwankwo. After receiving numerous complaints from the public about state repression and the evils visited on ordinary members of the public by members of the state bureaucracies, these lawyers felt that their professional organization, the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) was not capable of responding adequately to the situation. They therefore decided to set up the CLO, modelled after the Civil Liberties Union of the United States. Since then, human rights groups have not only proliferated, but have also specialized in particular forms of advocacy, targeting particular interests.

Typology of the Groups

74Some civil rights groups have developed a distinctly political agenda which transcends the liberal democratic rights agenda. While some tend, on the whole, to canvass for the rule of law, the respect for individual liberties and the freedom of the press, others tend to tilt towards political demands such as the termination of military rule, the restructuring of the federation, constitutional changes, protection of minority rights and changes in economic policy. Those in the second group go beyond human rights advocacy to incorporate a political reform agenda. It is tempting to refer to the first group as civil rights groups, and to the second as pro-democracy groups, but in reality, all groups are, to different degrees, a mixture of both tendencies.

75A second dimension to the typology of human rights groups in Nigeria is the distinction between groups that address human rights as a broad agenda, and those that approach the question from a special interest perspective. The special interest groups often approach the issue of human rights from women’s, environmental, minorities, media and community perspectives. Again, we should be mindful that many of the broad-agenda groups have also developed specialized programmes targeted at particular special interests.

76A third element in our typology is the evolution of a human rights agenda, sometimes complete with institutional expression, within groups which had hitherto existed for a different purpose. In this regard, we have the development of human rights adyocacy within trade unions, professional organizations and churches.

77The fourth element in our typology is the location of the activities of human rights groups. The dynamics of the politics of militarism and repression in the country have also meant that some of the groups are now based outside. Within this category, some are wholly Nigerian in composition, while others welcome members from their host countries. Another important factor is that some of the externally based human rights groups are simple extensions of home-based groups, while others have close collaboration with home-based groups. Others are wholly external to the country in their membership and organization.

78The final criterion for our typology is that some groups are ‘umbrella groups’ comprising an alliance of numerous other groups, while others are ‘primary’ groups. Both types are active at the national and local levels. Some externally based groups are also umbrella groups.

Human Rights Groups in Nigeria

79Below is a list of the existing human rights groups. Some of the very minor groups are simply listed under the appropriate categories. The list also includes groups which have become inactive in the recent past, or have indeed disappeared entirely. Some continue, essentially as informal networks. The list does not in the least pretend to be exhaustive.

Civil Rights Groups

80AI Amnesty International (Nigeria) – Lagos based and concentrates on public education and rights monitoring.

81CLO Civil Liberties Organization – Founded in October 1987, and based in Lagos, but has an extensive network of offices in the country.

82CRP Constitutional Rights Project – Lagos based

83FIDA International Association of Female Lawyers - Canvasses on the platform that women’s rights are human rights.

84HRA Human Rights Africa – Lagos based. Canvasses largely on rights issues. Recently sponsored the Nigerianity Movement dedicated to national unity and ending military rule.

85IHR&HL Institute of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law - Lagos based, combines research, advocacy and activism

86LRRDC Lagos based, and concentrates on human rights education, and research into, and publications on human rights issues affecting the public.

87The 100 Group Nigeria A network of women in public life, established in 1996; aims to increase women’s participation in political parties as well as women’s registration as voters, and the number of women who seek elective offices.

Pro-Democracy Groups

88ADGN Association for Democracy and Good Governance in Nigeria- Formed by present head of state, Olusegun Obasanjo, in the wake of the June 12 crisis in 1993. It had the aim of removing Babangida from office (easing the bull from the China shop). Made up largely of heavyweight retired military officers, bureaucrats and politicians. Now moribund.

89ADHERE African Democratic Heritage

90ADL Africa Democratic League – Has a continent-wide perspective. Founded by Wole Soyinka. Organized a march on Abuja on the June 12 election. The effort was thwarted by the state.

91ARM African Redemption Movement

92CAPP Community Action for Popular Participation - Founded in May 1993, based largely in Abuja and Kaduna State; part of the Democratic Alternative. Has a grassroots orientation. Has concentrated on getting the public to use the Public Complaints Commission to seek redress.

93CDHR Committee for the Defence of Human Rights - Lagos based. A major activist organization in the country.

94CLO Civil Liberties Organization – A strong member organization of the Campaign for Democracy (CD) and later, of the Democratic Alternative (DA).

95CPE Council for Public Education

96DACOM Democratic Action Committee – Based in Calabar and Lagos. Mixes pro-democracy activism with socialist agitation.

97DF Democratic Forum – Jos based affiliate of CD. Also circulated pro-June 12 leaflets. Disbanded after the arrest of the leadership.

98FCI Freedom Charter International

99GFSA Gani Fawehinmi Solidarity Association – Lagos based, closely allied to NCP and LM and is a member of CD.

100KAD Kaduna Alliance for Democracy – Kaduna-based affiliate of CD, made up of students, trade unionists and academics. Pamphleteered against the annulment of June 12 election. Held a pro-June 12th rally in Zaria. Disbanded under pressure from the state. Members now part of DA.

101LM Labour Militant – Lagos based radical labour group, canvassing for a more political role for Labour. Publishes the Labour Militant, and has attracted severe state repression. Allied to the Militant Tendency in England, the GFSA, NCP and the CD.

102LYDC Labour and Youth Defence Committee

103MDDA Movement for Democracy and Development in Africa

104MNR Movement for National Reformation – Established by Chief Enahoro. Has produced alternative proposals to Abacha’s agenda. Member of CD and NADECO.

105MOSEJ Movement for Social and Economic Justice

106MPD Movement for Popular Democracy – Possibly the oldest collective of socialist activists across the country. Now largely moribund.

107MTMC Mahmud Tukur Memorial Committee – Made up of young intellectuals at ABU Zaria; member of DA.

108NADC National Association of Democratic Citizens

109NCC Nigeria Collective Council

110NCOP National Committee of Patriots – Founded in 1996 by prominent elements as a non-political organization to ensure that the military keep their promise to hand over power in 1998 and that politicians behave according to the rules of the game. A prominent member is Aliyu Mohammed, former secretary to Babangida’s administration.

111NCP National Conscience Party – Founded by Gani Fawehinmi as a political movement to challenge military rule. Has state branches all over the country.

112NM Nigerianity Movement – Launched in 1996 as a political movement by HRA

113NSGDD National Solidarity Group in Defence of Democracy

114PCL Peoples Committee for Liberty

115PMD Progressive Movement for Democracy

116UDD Universal Defenders of Democracy – A splinter group from the CLO. Also part of CD. Lagos based.

117UFPD Unity Forum for Peace and Democracy – Kano-based affiliate of CD organized to protest the annulment of the June 12 election. Organized a protest march on August 12, 1993. Disbanded under pressure from the state. Members now part of DA

118URC Uhuru Research Centre

119YD Young Democrats

Special Interest Groups

120ANA Association of Nigerian Authors – Many radical members, including Saro-Wiwa and Odia Ofeimun canvassed and continue to canvass for an end to military rule and the restructuring of the federation.

121CP Concerned Professionals – Formed in reaction to the June 12 debacle. Lagos based, but has tried to recruit members from across the country. Canvasses liberal democratic values, accountable government, individual responsibility, an end to military rule. Targeted by state repression, and has since become moribund.

122EMIROAF Ethnic Minority Rights Organization of Africa – Formerly EMIRON. Formed by Ken Saro-Wiwa to extend the struggle for ethnic minority rights to other minorities in Nigeria, and later, Africa. Lagos-based, member of CD.

123IPM Independent Print Media – Particularly publishers of TELL, The News, Tempo, TSM, Punch and The Guardian. Though not political organizations, these commercial enterprises, by their commitment to democratic values and campaigns against military rule, have played a most crucial role as alternative sources of information to the government-controlled media. They have been frequently targeted for repression.

124MEC Maroko Evacuees Committee – An organization for the 300,000 people forcibly expelled by the military from Maroko, a slum in Lagos. Closely allied to GFSA and CD.

125MOSOP Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People - MOSOP continues to struggle despite the killing of Saro-Wiwa. Continues to attract severe repression.

126MPYM Mainland Progressive Youth Movement – A youth movement based on Lagos Mainland, possibly has some contacts with the notorious ‘area boys’. Member of CD.

127MRA Media Rights Agenda – A Lagos based NGO which, specializes in monitoring infringements on press freedom.

128MUP Movement for Unity and Progress – This movement was set up in the wake of the June 12 crisis by radical politicians and academics, like Balarabe Musa from the north. Also has a sprinkling of former top bureaucrats and retired military officers like Ahmed Joda and Cot. Umar. MUP argued for the validation of the June 12 election; is now moribund.

129NADL National Association of Democratic Lawyers – A small but vocal group of radical lawyers based largely in Lagos; a prominent part of CD and close ally of CDHR.

130NDAN Newspapers Distributors Association of Nigeria -These distributors were drawn into pro-democracy activism by the incessant harassment of vendors distributing publications by the Independent press.

131NPA Nigeria Philosophy Association

132NTA Nigerian Tenants Association

133NYCOP National Youth Council of Ogoni People – Affiliate of MOSOP.

134PAYCO Pan African Youth Congress

135WIN Women in Nigeria – The alternative women’s organization in the country. Closely allied to NANS and DA

136WC Women Concerned

Unions and Churches

137ASUU Academic Staff Union of Universities – Union of all university academics in Nigeria. Noted for its trenchant and principled criticism of the political and economic policies of the military. Considered a major thorn in the flesh of the military. Has a Human Rights and Academic Freedom Committee through which it allies with pro-democracy groups.

138CIU Campaign for Independent Unionism - Campaigns against the takeover of the NLC, NUPENG and PENGASSAN by the Abacha junta.

139CWA Campaign for Workers Alternative – A worker-inclined political tendency that also campaigns for independent trade unionism.

140Human Rights Committee, Justice & Peace Commission (Ijebu-Ode Catholic Diocese) Many prominent church leaders like Mbang and Adetiloye have been vocal in condemning the general iniquities in the country and the political and economic agendas of the Babangida and Abacha regimes. Others like Okogie, have maintained a somewhat dubious stance. Church groups have also assisted individuals and groups, such as the Ogoni, who have fallen foul of the authorities. But there is no coherent church-based movement as such, except for such bodies as the committee of the Ijebu-Ode Diocese, which has recently initiated a joint programme with the CRP to highlight the role of the churches in human rights issues. Activism by the churches is also influenced by the increasing incidence of religious intolerance. On their part, the Muslim community seems to be divided along ethno-regional lines in their response to the June 12 crisis, with some southern leaders of the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, like Adegbite, favouring an interventionist policy, and northern leaders, like ex-Sultan Dasuki, arguing that the whole affair was ‘the will of Allah’. Many Islamic youth organizations in the southwest continue to make political demands on behalf of Abiola.

141ISSSA Iron and Steel Senior Staff Association, Lagos Chapter. Allied to CD.

142NANS National Association of Nigerian Students – The most consistent opponent of military rule in Nigeria. National umbrella of Nigerian students, but dominated by university students. Allied to DA and ASUU, but now factionalized. Continues to be a major player in pro-democracy agitations.

143NBA Nigerian Bar Association – Once a very influential body. Now crippled by internal dissension, sponsored, some claim, by the Babangida administration. Some branches, particularly the Lagos Chapter, continue to be active. Major campaigns have been launched against the ousting of court powers by military decrees, refusal by various governments to obey court orders and the harassment of lawyers in the course of their duties.

144NLC Nigerian Labour Congress – The central labour organization in the country. The leadership was apparently bought off under Babangida, leading to much vacillation and confusion. State branches, particularly the Kaduna, Abuja and Lagos chapters have often taken the political lead on their own initiative. The above-mentioned chapters are part of the CD.

145NUJ Nigerian Union of Journalists – One of the most influential but fractious unions in the country. Many leaders at various levels are often bought over, but it still fights for a measure of professionalism and press freedom. Its members, particularly those in the independent press are subject to constant harassment. It engages in some pro-democracy agitation, particularly in the Lagos and Abuja chapters.

146NUPENG National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers – Affiliate of the NLC. Radicalized by the corrupt confusion surrounding the management of the refineries and the disquiet emanating from the ethnic minorities of the oil producing Niger Delta. Went on a political strike to validate the June 12 election in 1994. The union was forcibly taken over by the government, and the leader Kokori is still in detention without charge. The union continues to argue for its right to independent organization.

147NUATSE National Union of Air Transport Services Employees, Benue Chapter – Allied to CD.

148MHWUN Medical and Health Workers Union of Nigeria, Cross Rivers Chapter – Allied to CD.

149NUPCE National Union of Public Corporation Employees - Allied to CD.

150PENGASSAN Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria – The white collar equivalent of NUPENG. It also joined the NUPENG strike of 1994 for the same reasons, and suffered the same fate.

External Groups

151CDA Coalition for Democratic Awareness.

152DELTA News and Background on Ogoni, Shell & Nigeria - A London based network founded to disseminate information on the Nigerian crisis. Very sympathetic to the cause of the ethnic minorities of the Niger Delta.

153Justice Nigeria Campaigns for the rights of Nigerian asylum seekers in the UK. Also engages in advocacy.

154MOSOP-UK Recently constituted external wing of MOSOP.

155NAD National Alliance for Democracy.

156NADECO Abroad External wing of NADECO, based largely in Britain and the US, and made up of retired military officers and politicians who have fled the repression targeted at them by the Abacha regime.

157NALICON National Liberation Council of Nigeria – Formed by Wole Soyinka, it is a central organization in the external opposition.

158NDAC National Democratic Alliance Committee.

159NFF National Freedom Front.

160Nigeria for Democracy

161Nigeria Welfare & Monitoring Council Campaigns for the welfare of asylum seekers and refugees in the UK.

162NNF New Nigeria Forum – A London based organization which has been campaigning seriously against the Abacha regime. Its membership cuts across the country. Has close contact with the British Parliament and publishes the journal ‘Nigeria Now’. Member of UDFN.

163NDM Nigerian Democratic Movement – Possibly the the US. Made up of people who are largely from the southwestern states of the federation (Lagos to Delta), and supports a political line very similar to that of NADECO-Abroad. Very active in the street-level campaigns in the UK and US.

164NLG Nigerian Liberation Group.

165SANDSG Coalition of academics, writers and environmentalists based in Durban, South Africa, opposed to human rights abuses in Nigeria. It was formed as a response to the execution of Saro-Wiwa, and has an input from DA.

Umbrella Groups

166AFRONET African Network for Democracy – A recent effort at establishing a pan-continental movement for democracy. Has only held one major gathering of pro-democracy organizations in Nigeria.

167CD Campaign for Democracy – A major pro-democracy coalition in the country. Was formed by about 7 groups, and subsequently had about 44 affiliates. Has gone through two major crises, and is not as strong as it used to be.

168DA Democratic Alternative – Formed in June 1994, by a breakaway faction of the CD who walked out of the CD’s 1994 Convention. Has a broad national spread, and engages in a wide-range of agitation, either directly or through allies. Sees itself, not as a pro-democracy organization, but as a political movement.

169NADECO National Democratic Coalition – A coalition of heavy-weight politicians and retired military officers opposed to the Abacha agenda. Made up largely of people from the southwest, but has a number of people from the east and the northern minorities.

170NCF National Consultative Forum – An alliance of individuals and groups in Nigeria which tried to hold a Constitutional Conference in 1991. Subsequently contributed to the formation of CD. Now moribund.

171UDFN United Democratic Front of Nigeria – An alliance of 13 groups based outside and within the country (NADECO, AGD, ADL, CD, CDA, DA, NAD, NDAC, NFF, NALICON, NNF, NDM, NLG).

© IFRA-Nigeria, 2001

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